Of all the adventurous things I have tackled in my life thus far, I can tell you—definitively—motherhood tops the list. As I write this, we are approaching Hudson’s first birthday. This little guy brings so much joy, challenge and change (for the better) to my life. He is truly a blessing! A number of you have requested a post regarding my postpartum fitness journey. It’s a rather tricky and individual topic, so I thought long and hard about how to craft a “body after baby” article that would actually be helpful. Therefore, I want to talk about mindset and misconceptions.
Most importantly, I want postpartum moms to know you WILL get there. Restoring body confidence is a marathon, not a sprint.
It’s 3 a.m. I am curled up in a corner of our bedroom, trying to stay awake through Hudson’s third overnight feed. Fighting sleep, I scroll through my phone, searching the web for “3 months postpartum”, “body after baby 3 months” and the like. Why? I was frustrated with my weight loss and eager to compare my journey to that of other moms.
Were my struggles normal? How much weight should I have lost by now? What can I do to speed up the process?
Was it a good idea? Definitely not.
It became a nightly habit and I discovered plenty of material to stoke the flames. Now, we not only have celeb magazines touting stars who “got their body back” in record time, we also have thousands of real women sharing their monthly weight loss on Instagram and blogs.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with posting photos. In fact, many women find it motivating to include others in their journey and to share their body after baby images. They say the photos keep them accountable in their quest for healthier habits and serve as a diary of sorts. I think we need to applaud those women who are giving us a more realistic postpartum perspective with their raw and unfiltered images. That said, for some new moms “progress” pics can also fuel unhealthy thoughts of comparison.
Each time I slipped on snug pre-pregnancy clothing, glanced at an unflattering photo of myself, or received disappointing weight loss news at my postpartum checkups, my mind would immediately flit back to images of other new moms. They were at the same point as me, but already appeared back to their previous fitness level. Instead of feeling inspired, I felt dejected. It was like I was a hamster, running circles on a wheel but making no progress.
I should have been more patient with my body. I should have enjoyed the baby snuggles and not given my postpartum pooch a second thought. A new mom certainly has enough to worry about without her body entering into the equation!
Why am I telling you this?
First, I want new moms and those going through their first pregnancy to know body insecurities are normal. You are not alone. Secondly, I now realize my thoughts were NOT helpful. So here are a few body after baby truths to help you pass through the postpartum period with a healthier mindset.
Be patient and cut yourself some slack. Health experts often say since it takes 9 months to put the weight on, we should give ourselves 9 months to lose it. It’s true!
I didn’t gain a lot of weight during pregnancy. In fact, toward the end, I was struggling to gain enough. So, I ate a lot of full fat ice cream. Not exactly what my doc intended, but it worked (I gained about 25 lbs by the end) and was delicious!
Anyhow… Since I didn’t have a huge amount to lose, I thought the weight would come off quickly. Nope. I lost weight immediately after birth, but then everything stalled. Despite moderate exercise and healthy eating, it took a solid 6 months before I felt my body returning to its previous state.
Now, a full year later, I have my energy back and feel comfortable in my own skin. I’ll wear a bikini at the beach without a cover up and—more importantly—I realize I never should have been ashamed of my body! I just made a tiny human. Who cares about a few extra pounds?
This might be the case for some women, but it certainly wasn’t for me. We need to keep in mind that—despite magazine claims—breastfeeding is not a tool for weight loss, it’s a source of vital nutrition for baby. Weight loss is a side benefit.
My progress seemed to stall while I was breastfeeding. I think my body was trying to hold on to extra fat to keep up my milk supply. In addition, I felt unusually hungry while breastfeeding and often found myself eating in the middle of the night. (Not great when you’re trying to lose weight!)
When my son began trying cereal and other foods at 6 months, it was a like a switch flipped. The pounds began to drop. Within a week or two, I noticed my clothing fitting better.
Comparison is never a healthy process, especially for emotionally fragile postpartum women. The body after baby journey is different for each of us, because there are so many factors at play. Our bodies are unique, our circumstances are unique and our challenges are unique too. Don’t forget, many of the images you see on Instagram or in magazines are edited. As someone who uses Photoshop at work, I know it can drastically alter an image.
In theory, this is true (once you are cleared by your physician). In reality, it’s more complicated than that. Your body will “feel” different and your schedule will be different too.
I worked out daily (mild jogging or walking) until my last week of pregnancy and was quite eager to resume running my three daily miles. However, I found I simply didn’t have time for that. My body had healed, but I was so tired from overnight feeding sessions, I used every spare minute for a snooze. Breastfeeding is a huge time suck. Also, running with a stroller is more difficult than it looks.
Don’t feel bad if your workouts need to adapt after baby. You WILL find a new routine. For me, that meant workouts in the living room and more walking than running.
This post was a bit of an introduction. Next week, I’ll go into further detail about my postpartum workout routine and food choices. I’m curious, what has the postpartum period been like for you? What were your biggest challenges? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!